A tour of Franklin Pierce’s Concord
Insights to the life and world of our 14th President are easy to find today in Concord, NH. Named the Franklin Pierce Highway almost a century ago, Route 9 traces Pierce’s life from birth in Hillsborough, to Bowdoin College, Maine, to legal studies in Portsmouth, to a political career in Concord.
If Hillsborough was Pierce’s birthplace, then Concord, the state capital and seat of State government would be his second home. It was here that Pierce both began and ended his political career.
New Hampshire’s statehouse is the oldest state capitol where the Legislature still meets in its original chambers. The marble and granite dome was put on top of the building in 1818. Over the years, the Statehouse has been enlarged and renovated to accommodate 424 lawmakers (The New Hampshire House's 400+ members make it the third-largest parliamentary body in the English-speaking world: trailing only the U.S. Congress and Britain's Parliament). Pierce came here fresh out of college as a representative from Hillsborough, and soon became the state’s youngest ever speaker of the house.
A huge portrait of Pierce by U.D. Tenney hangs in the hall of representatives, and a portrait of his father, governor Benjamin Pierce, is just to the left of the second floor governor’s office. A statue of Pierce stands at the edge of the statehouse lawn. It is the only statue of Pierce in his home state and was erected in 1914, on city property (so not officially on the statehouse lawn). Self-guided tours of the statehouse are available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Guided tours are offered with reservations. Information: 603-271-2154.
The Pierce Manse is the only home ever owned and lived in by President Franklin Pierce, a New Hampshire native and the 14th President of the United States. The 1838 Greek Revival Pierce Manse was the home that Pierce and his family lived in between the Senate and the presidency. The house has been restored to how it might have been when the Pierces lived here with their two children. Many of the furnishings belonged to Pierce or other members of his family. Some items are known as "White House Pieces." When he moved into this house, he had just resigned his post as U.S. Senator to resume his law practice, and it was here that he was exerting every effort to land some sort of government position for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne. He left the house in 1846 to go off to the Mexican War, while his wife and little Benny went to stay with relatives. It is likely that they did not return to 18 Montgomery Street after the war because the rooms would have been haunted by the memory of little Franky's death. A unique portrait of this child is one of the treasures of The Manse. Information, 603-225-2068. www.piercemanse.org
Pierce and his immediate family are buried a few blocks away in the Old North Cemetery.
Former Pierce Law Office (Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell- 214 N. Main Street)
The building at 214 North Main Street was built in 1826 as the home of the Merrimack County Bank; it is believed to be the first three-story brick building on Main Street. Designed and built by local architect/builder John Leach in the Adamsesque Federal style, it features tall recessed arches with stone imposts on the facade reminiscent of the Boston work of Bullfinch, and step-gable ends and square, simple-capped chimneys. Originally built with double entries on Main Street, the building's occupants included Franklin Pierce.
Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell is a multidisciplinary government and regulatory law firm serving New Hampshire and New England
Information, 800-528-1181. www.gcglaw.com.
NH Historical Society
The New Hampshire Historical Society’s 1911 Tuck Library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to exhibitions about New Hampshire history, art, and culture. Exhibitions showcase hundreds of objects, photographs, and documents, including many of Pierce’s papers.
New Hampshire Historical Society
30 Park Street www.NHHistory.org.
Site of 2nd Pierce Home
After the death of Abraham Lincoln, Pierce was living on Main Street in Concord (Next to 50 S. Main). He did not lower his flag to half mast, and an angry group gathered outside wanting to ask why. Pierce, always a great speaker, faced them and said he too mourned the loss and his own service to the nation should speak loader than any cloth. And, the protesters dispersed. Pierce would die there in 1869, and in 1981 the home would be lost to a fire. A marker is on the spot today, as is the doorstep and front walkway of the lost home.